By Alex Y. Vergara
Images by Noel Pabalate
After a month-long, round-the-clock renovation, The Manila Hotel’s Chinese restaurant recently reopened with a new name and more fabulous, Instagram-worthy interiors to go with its more diverse menu anchored on classic Cantonese dishes as well as some of the best regional dishes from all over China.
Aptly named Red Jade, the restaurant draws inspiration from the color red, which, in Chinese culture, symbolizes life, luck, and happiness. Jade, a beautiful precious stone the Chinese also associate with luck, is literally carved on the walls of the restaurant in the form of artworks depicting scenes in the life of Confucius. This time, jade as a medium comes in various colors, apart from green.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS Special attention has been given to the restaurant’s wood and lattice work, fabrics, wall-to-wall carpeting, and wallpaper
FLAVORS OF CHINA From left: Dan dan noodles, Szechuan style; Braised lo han chai in taro ring; and lobster glazed
with sliced almonds
FOR LIFE, LUCK, AND HAPPINESS Clockwise : Fried ice cream with mango sauce
Pan-fried lamb chops with red wine and honey pepper sauce
Wagyu beef with olives fried rice
Seafood spinach soup
Chef Sun Bing
Fried stuffed scallops with crab roe sauce; and dim sum appetizer consisting of steamed shrimp sumpling ‘har gao,’ crispy fried shrimp stuffed with cheese
Pan-fried radish cake, ‘bi feng tang’ style
“The last time I’ve seen such detail and quality in a jade artwork was at the national museums in Beijing and Taipei,” said Therese Necio, The Manila Hotel’s VP for marketing. “Looking at them, you can readily see the richness of Chinese culture and the pride and passion the Chinese people have for their long history, which dates back to ancient times.”
Such pride and passion are also reflected in the food prepared by Cantonese chef de cuisine Sun Bing and his team. During a recent nine-course media lunch to introduce Red Jade’s menu, Sun did such signature dishes as lobster glazed with sliced almonds, seafood spinach soup, fried stuffed scallops with crab roe sauce, pan-fried lamb chops with red wine and honey pepper sauce, and braised lo han chai in taro ring, among others.
He opened it with a plate of dim sum appetizer consisting of steamed shrimp dumpling, crispy fried shrimp stuffed with cheese, and pan-fried radish cake, bi feng tang style.
“The food at Red Jade is a mix of traditional and fairly new Cantonese dishes, and supplemented with special dishes coming from various regions in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Sichuan,” Sun said. “That wasn’t the case before since our menu was purely Cantonese (fare).”
And just as he promised, Sun, a resident of Hong Kong, who joined The Manila Hotel in 2009 to bring his brand of culinary magic to the hotel’s now-defunct Mabuhay Chinese restaurant, added a special dish to his multicourse meal—spicy dan dan noodles, Szechuan-style.
The meal’s penultimate treat was wagyu beef with olives and fried rice. Capping it off was Red Jade’s version of fried ice cream with mango sauce.
“The standard in this restaurant is Cantonese cuisine, which is measured for its simplicity and its freshness,” said Necio, who, prior to joining The Manila Hotel, was based abroad, particularly Hong Kong, where she was exposed to a wide range of the best tasting Cantonese dishes. “That’s one of the most difficult things to achieve. You can probably mask a dish’s true flavor by putting in other flavors, but that’s something you can’t always do with Cantonese cuisine.”
Since it capitalizes on freshness and, to a certain extent, authenticity of ingredients, Cantonese food, Necio added, is very hard to camouflage as well as “mimic.”
Close to 70 percent of the ingredients Red Jade uses are derived locally, including most of the seafood that eventually find their way into the restaurant’s kitchen, supplementing the seafood supplies from nearby countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Some selected meat items, including the lamb chops Sun used, are sourced from Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
“If you have 7,100 islands, you could just imagine how much seafood we have,” said Necio. “If we want to help our economy grow, we have to start sourcing first from here.”
For diners into dim sum, Red Jade, as part of its opening promotional treat, offers diners its Dim Sum Buffet Feast (R988 per person). For a minimum group of five people per table, diners will get 20 percent off. Cognac and whiskey lovers could also avail themselves of a 20 percent discount on premium cognac and whiskey brands.
Red Jade is also celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with a Mooncake Festival. A booth is situated at The Manila Hotel’s Grand Lobby where a premier selection of moon cakes such as mango paste, orange paste, premium Portuguese custard paste, single yolk pure white lotus seed paste, and single yolk red bean paste are offered. Sold individually or in boxes of twos and fives, the moon cakes are available until Oct. 8.
Of course, Red Jade isn’t the first restaurant of its kind to open in Manila. But there are several things going for it that others may not have. For one, the prestige and ambiance an institution like The Manila Hotel offers.
“When you come to this place, it comes with the heritage, iconic status, safety, security, and cleanliness the Manila Hotel is known for,” said Necio. “Not only are you sure of getting delicious food, you’re also assured of the consistency of the dishes’ quality as well as the service. Not everyone can claim that. And if they do, it’s usually short lived. If you have a 105-year-old history like this hotel does, you can hang your hat on that.”
Finally, its chic yet inviting ambiance is also one good reason to dine at Red Jade. The hotel tapped the services of interior stylist and “floral architect” Rachy Cuna in totally revamping the restaurant’s interiors into a modern-day haven consisting of flattering lighting, interesting art installations, elegantly carved furniture pieces in a soothing shade of red, and unique wood and lattice work.
In direct consultations with the hotel’s owners, Cuna also personally selected the fabrics and wallpaper that make up the refurbished restaurant’s interiors. His marching orders were summed up in two words: “refined elegance.”
“Gone are the days when strong, jarring décor was typically associated with a Chinese restaurant,” said Necio. “These days, apart from the great food, it’s all about the mood, a relaxing ambiance that soothes and makes diners stay and enjoy the place and its food a while longer.”